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tv   Mosaic World News  LINKTV  September 11, 2012 11:30am-12:00pm PDT

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( music ) narrator: thomas moran embarked on his first trip to the west in 1871. the united states at the time was still recovering from the ravages of the civil war. americans turned with hope to the western frontier. by painting the pristine grandeur of these remote places, moran enabled 19th-century americans to visualize a magnificent landscape most would never see.
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his paintings transformed their perceptions of the west. from 1867 to 1879, the united states government sponsored four western expeditions, now known as "the great surveys." of all the aists who accompanied them, none is more associated with the surveys than thomas moran. the watercolors he brought back from wyoming, the first color images of yellowstone, played a key role in the creation of the national parks system. yellowstone had long been familiar to american indians, mountainmen, traders and travelers.
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legendary, seemingly unbelievable stories made their way east. the canyon was said to be a "fearful chasm," the river a "frightful torrent," the sulfur springs wre "diabolical," the place where "hell bubbled up." while the eruption of old faithful was said to be "the most magnificent sight ever witnessed." in 1870, a group of private citizens from montana led by henry washburn, had ventured into yellowstone to see if these stories were true. an account of their experiences appeared in scribner's monthly thllowing spring. the editors had hid yog mora to turn field sketches made by amateur artists in the party into publishable illustrations. this commission introduced moran to a landscape he had not yet seen, and changed the course of his career.
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his interest piqued, moran arranged to join an upcoming expedition to yellowstone led by ferdinand hayden, a geologist who had lobbied congress for funding. moran borrowed $500 from the publisher of scribner's, using his painting "children of the mountain" as collateral. he obtained an additnal $500 and a letter of introduction from jay cooke, a prominent philadelphia financier and a principal investor in the northern pacific railroad. in july of 1871, moran traveled by train to utah, where just two years earlier, the union pacific and the cel pacific had linked to form the first transcontinental railway. he joined hayden's party in montana. they proceeded to fort ellis and soon entered the fabled region of yellowstone.
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moran worked closely with the expedition photographer, william henry jackson. together they selected the most impressive views. moran made drawings and watercolor sketches, blocking in forms d contours, quickly noting the colors of the terrain and the sulfurous deposits for which yellowstone is named. back in newark, new jersey, moran began what he termed his "big picture," "the grand canyon of the yellowstone." for moran, the spiritual, natural and aesthetic realms
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should blend to create a great impression. to that end, he combined different points of view into one dramatic panorama. moran explained, the precipitous rocks on the right were really at my back when i stood at that point. yet in their present position, they are strictly true to pictorial nature. my aim was to brinbefore the public the character of that region. narrator: reporting to congress, hayden suggested that the geyser region of yellowstone be set apart as a national park. congressman william kelly of pennsylvania also promoted the legislation, no doubt eager to please jay cooke, a prominent constituent. for his northe pacific railad the senate debated the proposed bill. man: "i have grave doub about the propriety of passing this bill--
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why settlers should be excluded from a tract of land for a public park? persons would go and settle and cultivate the ground." ( various voices ) "you cannot cultivate that kind of ground." "but if it cannot be occupied and cultivated, why should we make a park of it?" "here is a region of country away up in the rocky untains where there are the most wonderful geysers on the face of the earth. it is a very proper bill to pass, and now is the time to enact it." narrator: hayden arranged for mbers of the house and senate to see photographs by william henry jackson and sketches by moran. jackson recalled, it was his wonderful coloring in pictures of canyons and hot springs that made the convincing argument for their preservation. narrat: moran's paintings dispelled any remaining disbelief
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about the transcendentwonde and provided congressmen with a glimpse of this place none of them had seen. congress passed the bill in the winter of 1872, and in early march, president ulysses s. grant signed it into law. yellowstone officially became the first national park of the united states of america. the significance of preserving this vast and remote tract of land was profound. the nation, not yet a century old, was still seeking its own cultural and national identity. of the american landscape were now promoted as the country's unique heritage.
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the new york herald wrot "their beauty, their splendor, their extraordinary and sometimes terrible manifestations of nature form a series of attractions possessed by no other nation." three months later, moran's "the grand canyon of the yellowstone" was bought by the federal government for $10,000. the painting was hung in the u.s. capitol, a triumph for moran. soon after, he began signing his work with the monogram "t.y.m." for thomas "yellowsto" moran. yellowstone remained a source of inspiration throughout moran's career. in 1892, the artist returned to the park to create new paintings of its wonders.
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by this time, yellowstone was a popular tourist attraction. the idea of the national park, suggested two decades before, had been fully realized. moran's depictions of yellowstone left a permanent mark on the american consciousness, transforming the public perception of the west fr a frightful land of mystery into a patriotic symbol of the beauty and promise of america. ( music )
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narrator: it tended to look much like any other building, the usual geometric jumble of rods, forms, and scaffolds.
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but by its location alone, here on the familiar axis of amerin history, it was destined to become a prominent stone in the nation's crown. the first problem architect i. m. pei faced was the shape of the site, an asymmetrical set-back trapezoid on which his building would have to respect the classic symmetry of its older sister
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and serve also a combined function, as an exhibition space and a udy center. and there were other challenges. pei: sixty-feet height will relate perfectly with buildings on constitution avenue, and a hured feet will relate very well with buildings up pennsylvania avenue. and if we pick these two heights, we can begin to develop some interesting volumes. narrator: the desire for outward textural compatibility led them back to this marble quarry in tennessee. here, 40 years ago, the materials for the original gallery had been carved from the same geologic formation. the close correlation of texture, shape, and color were critical. so into the hands of t family that had overseen the quarrying of the original gallery marble went the responsibility. stone mason: with 15 shades of color, compared with
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the original gallery, where it was 20, 21 shades of color. narrator: the architect's model revealed how he divided the trapezoid shape into triangles to serve two related but separate functions: a quiet center for the study of the visual arts and a public art gallery, with a grand public space in between. nstruction manager: it reflects upon you what kind of a building you're putting up. worker: where will that escalator attach to the old building? narrator: the workers whose hands would convert the design in the final undertaking they had raised many buildingin their time, but this was a different challenge. cotruction manager: we're all out there trying to help everybody remember that we gotta do it just right. and if you hit a place three times with a vibrator,
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that won't hurt it. if you miss it one time, that's gonna hurt, that's right. you're not just out there pourin' concrete; you're carefully placing architectural concrete that peoe are going to see forever. and you don't get a seco shot at it. what you do is there, man. there's no way to hide it. u're either gonna brag about it or you're gonna be awful ashamed, one of the o, so you gotta do it right. you'll just never do anything like this again in your life, and so you'd better live it up this time. just once around is the way i look at it. ( laughter ) narrator: on every detail, there was to be no compromise in precision, no margin for error. working with concrete, iron, and steel, wood and plaster, they were working in tonnage and crafting in inches.
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the sharp corners and angles dictated by the design hato be joined in perfect alignment. skilled cabinetmakers fashioned coffer forms of cle-grained fir, finished and rubbed like fine furniture to avoid blemishes and imperfections on the final pou afteweeks ofeaving steel, the moment of truth ( engine rumbling ) ( men talking indistinctly )
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they had performed a delicate triumph in architectural casting. in the fall of 1975, the bearing walls and concrete work were in place. now they were ready to receive the marble.
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it would take 3 1/2 years to prepare properly and place the 7,081 tons tennessee marble that would adorn the outer skin and inside walls and floor. ( men conversing in foreign language ) unlike its predecessor, it would have no cornices or trim to cover mistakes in joining. each meeting of stone would be exposed, leaving no room for error. the marble would expand and contract with the cycle of the seasons. they had to invent and design a neoprene gasket, permitting the building to breathe without distorting theknifg of the facade. no stone was placed indiscriminately.
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each was positioned for shape, texture, and color, the parts giving unity to the whole. major artists of international reputation, men like sculptor henry moore and the creator of the mobile, alexander calder, came to share ideas with gallery director j. carter brown about their works, commissioned by the gallery to enhance and celebrate the new building. brown: and then a couple more pieces come out. men: that's right. all right. there we go. that's it. narrator: the artists had been chosen because of their preeminence and their genius for creating monumental works for monumental spaces. moore: that's lovely to have a picasso here. brown: you do give the opportunity to relate in scale to trees and other things and not just the building. moore: all my argument was not to have pieces that are attached to the building.
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you know, it becomes like reliefs, it's a decoration to the architecture. brown: yes, yes, yes. i think you should have a sculpture that's separate from the architecture to give scale to the architecture and to the sculpre. brown: yes. narrator: it would prove to be calder's last work of epic proportions, and he would approve its fabrication one week before his death. ( machine whirring ) the ultimate space for calder's work was the third major element in the building's design. the space-frame and main skylight would be nstructed 80 feet above the level of the concourse floor, creating a lofty canopy with a 500-ton steel frame.
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using aluminum and dble- paned insulating glass, it would span 16,000 square feet-- more than a third of an re-- culminating in a public space unique in architecture. and it would receive light in a selective fashion, to illumine but protect the artwork within, filtering out direct sunlight and e ultraviolet rays that could damage the art inside. by november of 1977, they were ready to receive the first of the commissioned works.
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they came from england, france, spain, and from across america: calder and moore, arp, caro, miro, motherll, rosati, their works to be placed in the grand spaces. ( orchestral music
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this building is a gift given to the natn by pl mellon, ailsa mellon bruce, and the andrew w. mellon foundation, but it is more than that. it is a statement, as one critic wrote, "of perseverance and excellence, against which all buildings and builders must now be measured."
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